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Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with stunning scenery throughout this adorable part of Japan. Equally important is the power of history, religion and culture in Wakayama because you have many national and regional treasures which beckon tourists and religious pilgrims alike to this lovely prefecture. In Koyasan you can feel the richness of Shingon Buddhism and the power of nature alongside stunning architecture. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Kukai picked this amazing place and it is nice to know that Koyasan is “a living Buddhism.”

Internationally, Kyoto is seen to be the cradle of high culture in Japan but actually this really belongs to Nara. After all, high culture was already flourishing before the power of Kyoto began because of the impact of Nara. Koyasan, just like Nara and Kyoto, is located in the Kansai region. Also, it is factual that Nara and Kyoto are much larger in terms of size and places to visit than Koyasan. However, the remoteness of Koyasan means that tourists and pilgrims flock to this stunning part of Wakayama. Given this reality, it is clear that Koyasan can’t be underestimated because of the power of Kukai and the richness of this exquisite part of Japan.

Zen Buddhism is internationally famous but in Koyasan it is the richness of Shingon Buddhism which thrives. It matters not if people are religious or not because when you visit Koyasan you can feel something special inside. This is because of the power of architecture, Buddhist temples, simplicity, “a living Buddhism” and the stunning views of nature which blesses Mount Koya in all directions.

The environment of Koyasan is extremely rich because of the layout and the abundance of temples to visit. Also, the main graveyard is extremely mysterious and many leading historical figures are buried in Koyasan. Another nice aspect is the environment whereby tradition alongside the yearning of normal tourists and religious pilgrims naturally flows.

Visual images of the Buddha mixed with the uniqueness of Shingon Buddhism is a real treat on the eye. This applies to the architecture and artistic aspects of everything that encompasses each amazing temple. Japanese gardens are equally famous and clearly the Buddhist concept of time and space can be felt deeply. The flow is so natural that lay people can feel the power and majesty of a faith which seeks a unique path along a complex road in this world.

In the world of monotheism the one God shows many sides and clearly you have various different sects. Likewise, in Buddhism you also have many different sects and in a sense religion is a mirror to what humanity is irrespective if good, mundane or where dark forces reign. Yet in Koyasan it appears that God’s Eden may exist because faith, philosophy, simplicity and nature come together.

In my earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times about beautiful Koyasan it was stated that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The lovely aspect about Koyasan is that Shingon Buddhism in this amazing place is “a living Buddhism” whereby the rich traditions continue to flourish. Buddhists and non-Buddhists will adore this lovely part of Wakayama prefecture because Mount Koya is extremely beautiful. Therefore, the vibrancy of culture, architecture and religion all pull naturally together.

It is clear that when Kukai searched long and hard to find a special place to spread his teachings, that he made the right choice. The remoteness of Koyasan during his lifetime must have provided great insights into this world. Of course, according to legend Kukai is still wondering around Koyasan after being transformed into an eternal Samadhi whereby he is waiting for the next Buddha Maitreya to appear.

Therefore, if you are looking for a special break then Koyasan should come to the top of your must places to visit. Without a shadow of a doubt this mystical place is extremely charming and the cultural and religious angle completes a perfect break for people who appreciate the finer things in life.

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Japan

 

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Mount Takao-san in Tokyo is an ideal place to visit

Mount Takao-san in Tokyo is an ideal place to visit

Olivier LeCourt, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japanese tourism is internationally famous because of many different angles. This applies to the rich traditions of Japanese culture which can be found throughout this nation. Therefore, images of the Japanese tea ceremony, kabuki, ukiyo-e, Buddhism, Shintoism, Japanese gardens, kimono and other traditional clothes, onsen, sumo, Japanese calligraphy, martial arts, haiku, and a host of other intriguing aspects are conjured up in the mind.

Likewise, images of Tokyo and major cities like Osaka remind people of ultra-modernity, state-of-the-art-technology, skyscrapers, and various modern cultural angles related to cosplay, maid café, kawaii culture, anime, manga and a wealth of other areas. However, within Tokyo you also have stunning mountains in and around Mount Takao. Therefore, for Tokyoites and tourists alike, the mountain scenery of Mount Takao is a welcome escape from the buzzing reality of modern Tokyo.

Another major aspect of Mount Takao is that the mountain range is blessed with many religious dimensions. Therefore, during your walking time you will often notice special holy places. This aspect of Mount Takao means that individuals will find an inner-peace based on the natural scenery which is extremely stunning. At the same time, the religious dimension provides a spiritual re-awakening for individuals who have lapsed from religion and the same applies to individuals who may be atheist. This doesn’t imply that people will suddenly find spirituality. However, people can’t fail to notice the religious dimension which blends naturally with the environment.

The cultural aspect of Mount Takao is extremely special and the natural reality of Shintoism means that faith and nature meet naturally within this unique religion. Given this reality, the power of the past remains spiritually alive within the natural world despite the different centuries ushering in more technological progress. Also, despite all the technological progress it is clear that the stunning scenery of the countryside can’t be matched because of the natural potency of nature.

The historical legacy of Mount Takao is also very important because Emperor Shomu ordered the building of the Yakou-in Temple in 744. This rich legacy enabled the religious angle to develop to a greater degree and provided a strong historical lineage to be cherished and honored. Therefore, since the eighth century you have had countless number of pilgrims and non-religious people who have visited Mount Takao because of the cultural and religious dimensions of this part of Tokyo.

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “During your visit you will see a statue of “Tengu” and Tengu is believed to be a deified man who mastered ancient mountain worship. Tengu is noticeable by having a long nose but the undercurrents of ancestor worship, Shintoism, and believing in the spirit world of the mountain is striking……mythology and a wisdom now lost is symbolized by the image of Tengu.”

“From an outsiders point of view Tengu reminds me of a mixture of human form and nature whereby the individual was at one with the mountain that he loved and therefore was deified.”

Mount Takao is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park therefore it is a place where wildlife can escape the onset of continuing developments. For Tokyoites who visit regularly, then this stunning place is a way of escaping all the stresses of modern life. Meanwhile, hikers will enjoy the various contours of Mount Takao.

Therefore, Mount Takao is a very special place to visit and it is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park. This stunning part of Tokyo is a reminder that the old world is still alive and ticking. Also, despite the modern reality of Tokyo you still have a magnificent mountain range on the edges of this fabulous city to explore and enjoy.

Mount Takao is extremely therapeutic. Therefore, tourists, religious people, romantic couples, individuals seeking refreshment, photographers, school children, artists, culture vultures, and so much more, will find this adorable place deeply refreshing.

 

http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/  – Mount Takao-san

http://www.japan-guide.co  – Mount Takao-sanm/e/e3029.html

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/takaosan.html  – Mount Takao-san

Takaosan-guchi Station via the  Keio Takao Line

http://moderntokyotimes.com  (please visit)

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Japan

 

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Tokyo tourism and gardens: Rikugien and Kiyosumi are exquisite gardens

Tokyo tourism and gardens: Rikugien and Kiyosumi are exquisite gardens

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo is an enormous city which attracts Japanese tourists, international tourists, and business people, all year round. This ultra-modern city means many things to different people because for some it is all about modernity but to others they want to dig deep and see the rich culture of Tokyo and Japan. Of course, for others it is a mixture of both and for busy business people it may just be a flying visit because of the nature of commerce.

However, irrespective of the reason why people visit Tokyo or if you are a Tokyoite, the gardens in Tokyo provide a place to relax, to look at sunning nature, to understand aspects of Japanese culture, and more important, to escape the “madding crowd.” Therefore, the gardens of Tokyo are not only therapeutic but the richness and style is a wonder to behold because you can feel continuity, a fusion of ideas, and feel the passion of Japanese gardeners who put everything into their work in order to create a different world

Rikugien Gardens and Kiyosumi Gardens are just two of the many gardens to visit in Tokyo and both provide a different ambience. Also, both gardens are located in quiet parts of Tokyo because Komagome and Kiyosumi Shirakawa are a million miles away from the fashion orientated districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku. This aspect makes a welcome change because the pace of life is much slower but you still have many quaint shops in Komagome which cater for handcrafts, antiques, and local goods.  

Komagome is extremely close to Ikebukuro and Ueno by the Yamanote Train Line and in a way Rikugien Gardens is a perfect link. This applies to the bustling nature of fashion and commerce in Ikebukuro and the many museums located in Ueno. Also, in Ueno you will find the fashion scene in full flow and a major park which is the central theme to this lively and important part of Tokyo.

However, Komagome is a sleepy suburb but a great place to relax because of Rikugien Gardens and nearby is Kyu-Furukawa Gardens. Therefore, garden lovers have the opportunity to visit both stunning places because they are in close proximity.  

All the main gardens in Tokyo are beautifully maintained and Rikugien is extremely spacious. This enables individuals to follow the main route around the exquisite pond or to walk around more natural parts of this garden by relaxing in quiet areas. The winter period, spring season, and late autumn are most relaxing because you have no dreaded mosquitoes bothering you unlike in the height of summer whereby you need mosquito spray.

Another lovely aspect of Rikugien Gardens is that you can rest and drink delicious traditional Japanese tea and eat a scrumptious small Japanese sweet. The location of the small resting place is located near to the pond and the scenery is truly stunning. Therefore, while drinking delicious Japanese tea you can feel the spirituality of Rikugien and this simplistic pleasure creates a lovely feeling for tourists who want to feel the old Japan.

Kiyosumi Gardens is equally beautiful and to reach Kiyosumi Shirakawa you need to take either the Toei Oedo Line or Hanzomon Line. Also, in Kiyosumi Shirakawa and the surrounding area you have many museums to visit and a good guide book will enhance your visit.

In a past article about Kiyosumi Gardens by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “The Iso-Watari section is a real treat because the stepping-stone pathways lead across the pond where it is shallow. For children, it is a time of fantastic pleasure because they can enjoy playful times and be connected with nature at its best. Also, for adults, the “child inside” comes flooding back when you walk on the stepping-stone pathways and at all times you will have opportunities to see fish in the pond.”

“Inside Kiyosumi Gardens you also have stylish buildings and this applies to the Ryotei building and Taisho Kinenkan. These buildings heighten the cultural aspects and ambience of Kiyosumi Gardens. Therefore, if you enjoy photography you can combine architecture and nature together and of course each angle provides a new image to treasure.”

Kiyosumi Gardens is a place where individuals, friends, or groups touring Tokyo, can sit back and look at sublime views. Also, the little pathways by stepping stones are an enthralling feature of this exquisite garden. Given this, the pamphlet guide in different languages is most welcome because it highlights important factors about Kiyosumi Gardens.

Japanese gardens are also spiritual and philosophical and each garden may have a different angle. This applies to the fusion of the respective garden with Buddhist elements, Confucian aspects, Taoism factors or being Japan, a mixture of all and of course the role of nature in the indigenous faith of Shintoism is powerful. Given this, the background of each garden is often very intriguing because Japanese gardens connect “the self” with nature. Also, space, layout, monuments, and other aspects, are meant to transcend everyday life therefore you can clearly feel the therapeutic nature of gardens in Japan.

The entire area provides many hidden treasures and this applies to the Fukagawa Edo Museum, Basho Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Morishita Culture Center. Therefore, it is important to check respective websites to see what options are available to you when you visit this part of Tokyo.

Koto City in Tokyo highlights a different ultra-modern city by focusing on culture, art, haiku, music, history, and other rich traditions. Kiyosumi Gardens is a lovely central point to your visit and the different museums open up a new world and this applies to either tradition or the modern vibes of the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

The gardens highlighted in this article are truly beautiful therefore please visit the links provided below.

Please visit the links below for more information about the gardens highlighted

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html Rikugien Gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kiyosumi/    Kiyosumi Gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/ Kyu-Furukawa Gardens

More tourist information about places named

http://www.kcf.or.jp/fukagawa/event_list.html   Koto City Fukagawa Edo Museum

http://www.kcf.or.jp/basyo/index.html  Basho Museum

http://www.mot-art-museum.jp/eng/  Museum of Contemporary Art

http://shintomin.com/xoops/modules/chapox2/content.php?lid=12   Morishita Culture Center

ALL IMAGES FROM MODERN TOKYO TIMES

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Japan

 

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Tokyo fashion and gardens: Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa and fashion in Omotesando

Tokyo fashion and gardens: Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa and fashion in Omotesando

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The beauty of Tokyo is that this mega-modern city caters for various lifestyles and areas change quickly. If you adore fashion then Tokyo is an amazing city because you have a plethora of choices. Therefore, each fashion district is buzzing for different reasons and on the opposite side of the coin you have many lovely gardens to relax and enjoy stunning nature.

Omotesando is famous for high-end fashion because you have so many fabulous companies to visit.  This applies to international boutiques and Japanese boutiques. Also, the closeness to Aoyama, Harajuku and Shibuya means that this fashion area is one of the most dynamic in the world. This isn’t an overstatement, it is based on facts and the same applies to the diversity of fashion.

Therefore, in Omotesando you are on the edge of so many different styles. This applies to exquisite and elegant fashion, kawaii trends, street styles, Lolita fashion, Dolly Kei, Vintage fashion, mainstream, and a host of other styles. Also, the age range changes quickly and this all adds to a fantastic buzz and natural energy.

Grimoire is on the border of Harajuku and Shibuya and this company is extremely unique and vibrant. The same applies to many other companies like 6% DOKIDOKI and the talented designer Sebastian Masuda. Therefore, with companies like Grimoire, Candy, and 6%DOKIDOKI (Harajuku), you can feel a lovely individualistic style and other amazing boutiques have created a lovely buzz and vibrant spirit.

If you love more mainstream fashion and elegant designs by top notch boutiques then a visit to Omotesando Hills is a real treat. Inside this building of stunning architecture you have countless international and Japanese boutiques which are sublime.

This applies to stunning boutiques in Omotesando Hills which include Adore, Anterpima, Betsey Johnson, Black Fleece, Escada Sport, Tour H. creer (Merveille H.), Yves Saint Laurent, Zara, Tracy Reese, Kiwa Sylphy, iliann loeb, Milly, Tiara, Apartment Department, Martinique Le Conte, Patrizia Pepe Firenze (Incontro), Oriental News and so many others. In truth, every single boutique is a wonder to behold and the design and architecture of Omotesando Hills is a real treasure.

Therefore, if you love fashion then “think” Omotesando, Harajuku, Aoyama and Shibuya. Of course you have many fantastic fashion districts in Tokyo but this collective area is difficult to beat in any nation. After all, you can travel between each area on foot and the different trends and styles are amazing.

On the opposite side of the fashion coin in Tokyo are the many gardens which grace this amazing city. If you want a lovely contrast between vibrant and buzzing Tokyo with a more sedate and tranquil area, then Komagome is well worth visiting. This applies to lovely gardens and many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to visit alongside shops which focus on antiques and other products.

It is difficult to imagine than Komagome is so close to Ikebukuro with all its trendy fashion in yet another fashion district in Tokyo. Alternatively, it is also difficult to believe that Komagome is so close to Ueno which is blessed with so many museums and tourist places to visit. Also, fashion in Ueno is electric but in its own distinctive style and you have a more Northeast Asia feel about Ueno than the usual Tokyo vibe.

Yet in Komagome you can enjoy the stunning gardens of Rikugien and Kyu-Furukawa which is in the same area. Both gardens are kept beautiful all year round and the main walkways provide glimpses into the ethics of Japanese gardens.  Therefore, space, time, views, emotions, minimalism, and other elements, fuse naturally with aspects of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism.

A real added bonus in Rikugien is that you can sit down and drink traditional Japanese tea and eat delicious Japanese sweets. At the same time, the view is amazing and you can look out and gaze at the stunning pond and see nature in all its beauty.

The pond in both gardens is the central theme but if you desire you can walk around more secluded areas. Komagome is extremely rewarding because of the therapeutic nature of both gardens. Therefore, if you want to escape the buzzing fashion districts of Tokyo or to enjoy the best of both worlds, then a visit to Komagome is essential.

The shopping district in Komagome is only small but you will find folk art stores, antiques, traditional Japanese sweets, Japanese dyed garments, ceramics, independent shops and so much more. Also, if you search around you will feel the sedate and tranquil nature of this part of Tokyo and another world will open up to you.

Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a little more natural despite the garden being well kept and while Rikugien Garden is the more famous garden, both gardens enrich each other. Not only this, the architecture of the Josiah Condor (1852-1920) Western-style residence in the Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a lovely bonus. Therefore, this building alongside the rose garden provides a lovely British and Japanese theme.

Overall, Omotesando and Komagome may seem like chalk and cheese however, this is what makes Tokyo so special. Therefore, a visit to both places will make Tokyo come alive and Tokyoites and tourists gain from both amazing places.

Please visit the  links  below for more information about both gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/

http://www.omotesandohills.com/english/shops-restaurants/index.html  

Individual fashion companies

http://www.dokidoki6.com/

http://www.grimoire.jp/

http://candy-nippon.com/

Omotesando Hills

http://www.omotesandohills.com/english/  

http://www.adore2005.com/

http://anteprima.com/

http://www.ap-dp.com/  

http://www.betseyjohnson.jp/

http://www.brooksbrothers.co.jp/fleece/index.html

http://www.erikonail.com/

http://www.escada.com/

http://www.iliannloeb.com/

http://eu.jimmychoo.com/en/restofworld/page/home?notify=yes

http://www.kiwasylphy.jp/

http://www.lebois.jp/  

http://www.maccosmetics.co.jp/

http://www.merveilleh.co.jp/

http://www.melrose.co.jp/martinique/index.html

http://ameblo.jp/oriental-news-omotesando/

http://www.incontro.co.jp/

http://www.melrose.co.jp/tiara/

http://www.pasdedeux.co.jp/

http://www.ysl.com/d/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

ALL FASHION IMAGES BY MODERN TOKYO TIMES

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Japan

 

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Tokyo Tourism: Rikugien Garden and Kyu-Furukawa Garden in Komagome

Tokyo Tourism: Rikugien Garden and Kyu-Furukawa Garden in Komagome

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo is ultra-modern and because of the sheer size of the population and rich diversity of this superb capital city, you have endless places to visit. However, if you want to feel a more sedate side of Tokyo and enjoy beautiful gardens, then Komagome is a real treat because Rikugien Garden is very beautiful and Kyu-Furukawa Garden is within walking distance.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that Komagome is so close to the buzzing districts of Ikebukuro and Ueno. This applies to the slow pace of life which is in stark contrast to the intensity of life in the other two mentioned districts. However, despite the sedate nature of life in Komagome you have splendid places to visit and the area is higly desirable.

Not only this, you have many quaint shops selling pottery, antiques, clothing, and other types of goods. Also, you have beautiful Buddhist temples and a genuine feel of a refined Tokyo where the old culture survives and not only in images. This in itself is a lovely contrast to the mega fashion districts of Tokyo and the commercial heartland.

The gardens in Komagome are very beautiful all year round and both gardens have their own style and unique feel. Rikugien is a stunning garden which is extremely well cared for and away from the main walkway you have areas which are relatively quiet even during a busy day.   

Another added bonus of Rikugien is that you can drink traditional Japanese tea and eat a small Japanese sweet while being surrounded by stunning nature. This is most rewarding because the lovely taste of traditional Japanese tea matches the serenity and stunning views which are provided by this exquisite garden.

During your visit to Rikugien you will notice many gardeners who care deeply about their work and because of their professionalism and focus on detail, the visitor is blessed by the ethical aspects of the garden. This applies to space, time, minimalism and fusing the world of nature within the concepts of Japanese culture and ethics.

The walk around the pond is very therapeutic and uplifting and if you desire to escape and venture into a more wild area of the garden, then the choice is open to you. The contrast of both areas fuses well together and the feeling of serenity is very refreshing.

On leaving Rikugien Garden it is well worth browsing around the small shopping area because Komagome is also a treasure by itself. The shopping district is only small but you will find folk art stores, antiques, traditional Japanese sweets, Japanese dyed garments, ceramics, independent shops and so much more. 

Another stunning garden to visit in the same district is Kyu-Furukawa Garden and despite the rose garden section, this garden is more natural. This applies to the more wild nature of the garden whereby nature often dictates over human interference.

Of course gardeners maintain the garden and have reshaped many aspects but you still have the feeling that nature is more natural in contrast to the ethical aspects of Rikugien. The pond and the garden appear smaller in size compared with Rikugien but the contrasting feel compliments both gardens and you have a nice ambient feel in Kyu-Furukawa.

Josiah Condor (1852-1920) designed the Western-style residence in the garden and this feature creates a distinctive environment. This fine building blends together a nice English and Japanese theme and Kyu-Furukawa gains from the creativity of Josiah Condor.

Irrespective if you are a Tokyoite or a tourist, it is clear that Komagome should be high on your list if you adore gardens and culture.

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/

Please visit the above links for more information about both gardens

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Japan

 

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Supreme Court in Japan: Karoshi verdict after tragic work related suicide

Supreme Court in Japan: Karoshi verdict after tragic work related suicide

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yuji Uendan tragically committed suicide after bouts of depression related to overwork and poor environmental conditions. Despite only being 23 years old he couldn’t take anymore and saw no way out. Therefore, depression, extreme tiredness, and poor working conditions tilted him over the edge.

This tragic incident happened in 1999 and after many years of wrangling the Tokyo High Court in 2009 ruled against Nikon Corp. and a Nagoya based temporary employment agency.  However, the verdict was contested and sent to the Supreme Court.

Nikon Corp. and the temporary employment agency disputed the verdict in 2009 because of several factors.  Therefore, the case continued to drag on but finally the Supreme Court has dismissed their objections and told both companies to pay 70 million yen to the mother of Yuji Uendan.

Misako Hida in her article called The Land of Karoshi comments that “The late Mr. Uendan had worked for nearly 16 months as an inspector of semiconductor producing equipment in the subdued yellowish light of a clean-room at a Nikon factory in Kumagaya, dressed from head to toe in a white dust-free garment. The young man was employed by the manufacturing contractor Nextar (currently known as Atest) and was temping at his employer’s client, Nikon, a major Japanese camera and optical equipment maker.”

“Uendan worked 11-hour rotating day and night shifts with overtime and extra business trips that brought his work hours to as long as 250 hours a month at times. In his final stretch of work at the factory, he had worked 15 straight days without a day off. He was suffering from stomachaches, insomnia, numbness of extremities. His weight had dropped 13 kilograms.”

On the fatal day when Yuji Uendan took his life he had wrote“The time I spent has been wasted” on a board. He committed suicide in his apartment in Kumagaya City, Saitama, after continuously working for 15 days. All warning signs were ignored including the loss of 13 kilograms, insomnia and issues related to depression.

“Karoshi” (death from overwork) is a serious problem in Japan because working long hours and having few holidays is putting too much pressure on many workers. Laws that have been passed are vague and open to manipulation and bullying and poor working conditions are other areas of problems in Japan.

The sad reality is that for the past decade more than 30,000 people commit suicide every year in Japan and this figure is much higher than the tragic tsunami which killed around 20,000 people.  Therefore, over 300,000 Japanese nationals have killed themselves in the last decade and while the factors will be complex and vary, it is clear that overwork is claiming the lives of many Japanese people.

Of course many Japanese companies protect workers but it is abundantly clear that many don’t. Also, many foreign companies which have tight regulations in Europe and North America about working long hours don’t apply the same standards in Japan. Therefore, Japanese companies and international companies are both exploiting the goodwill of Japanese workers.

Some individuals like Hiroshi Kawahito, Secretary General of the National Defence Council for Victims of Karoshi, believes that around 5,000 people a year commit suicide because of overwork. However, the real figure from karoshi related suicides each year is difficult to verify but the figure will indeed be high like Hiroshi Kawahito states.

In the article by Misako Hida it is stated that “Too much overtime, which virtually precludes worker use of paid vacations, is a serious issue,” says a lawyer, Kosuke Hori, who is previous Director General of the Labour Lawyers Association of Japan. Japan has not ratified any ILO worktime-related conventions, including Convention 132 concerning Holidays with Pay and Convention 1 concerning Hours of Work.”

“The domestic Labor Standards Law does not cap the amount of overtime under certain conditions. “When it comes to working hours,” Mr. Morioka writes in his book. “In Japan, nothing in the way of international labor standards exists.”

Therefore, the decision by the Supreme Court is very important and issues related to karoshi needs to be challenged because how many more victims will this claim before something is finally done?

The verdict is a stepping stone in the right direction but much more needs to be done in order to protect workers in Japan.

http://www.cpi-media.co.jp/kawahito/index_e.htm

http://ilsforjournalists.itcilo.org/en/home/press-room/the-land-of-karoshi

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 

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Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In the last few weeks it appears that the nuclear reality is gaining momentum in Japan. This applies to Prime Minister Noda insisting that the nuclear reality will exist in Japan for the next few decades at the very least.  This was followed by a pro-Nuclear mayor winning a local election at the expense of an anti-nuclear campaigner. Then to top it off a nuclear consortium from Japan just signed a feasibility study with Vietnam with regards to two new reactors.

The Tokyo-based utility consortium played on the strengths of the nuclear sector in Japan which is amongst the best in the world. Also, Japan and Vietnam have very strong relations and both nations share similar geopolitical concerns in relation to China.  Therefore, with a powerful political and trade angle between Japan and Vietnam, it is not surprising that Vietnam listened carefully because nuclear power gave a fresh momentum to Japan’s economic rise and stabilized the energy supply.

Japan’s recently maligned nuclear industry appears to be gaining momentum and with China, India and South Korea expanding their nuclear industry, it would be travesty if Japan gave up on a sector which is powerful.

The Fukushima Daiichi crisis was clearly based on human failing but the reaction in some media outlets and in Germany was over-the-top because powerful lobby groups have vested interests.  Also, where will Germany get its new power supply from and will it rely on “dirty energy” in order to eradicate nuclear power?

In an in-depth article related to Germany by the New York Times which was written by Elisabeth Rosenthal (Germany Dims Nuclear Plants, but Hopes to Keep Lights On), the author raises important questions.

Elisabeth Rosenthal comments As a result, electricity producers are scrambling to ensure an adequate supply. Customers and companies are nervous about whether their lights and assembly lines will stay up and running this winter. Economists and politicians argue over how much prices will rise.”

“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said . He characterized the government’s shutdown decision as “emotional” and pointed out that on most days, Germany has survived this experiment only by importing electricity from neighboring France and the Czech Republic, which generate much of their power with nuclear reactors.”

“Then there are real concerns that the plan will jettison efforts to rein in manmade global warming, since whatever nuclear energy’s shortcomings, it is low in emissions. If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, falls back on dirty coal-burning plants or uncertain supplies of natural gas from Russia, isn’t it trading a potential risk for a real one?”

Ironically, it would appear that Japan is enacting a more realistic approach and this applies to maintaining nuclear power plants until a genuine alternative is found. Japan also may be biding its time until the Fukushima Daiichi crisis loses its potency and the nuclear issue gradually loses its power within Japan.

Alternatively, Japan may be sincere and actually reduce its dependence on nuclear power at home but maintain a powerful lobby for exporting its nuclear industry abroad. In other words, nuclear energy is ok but “not in our backyard” and given the fact that Germany will import electricity from nuclear energy France, and from other nations, then it is difficult to see a moral principle emerging.

Vietnam, noticing how the nuclear sector helped Japan in the past is following the same route in order to maintain rapid economic growth.  Therefore, Vietnam is planning to build eight new nuclear plants which will hold thirteen nuclear reactors by 2030.

Japan, the Russian Federation, and other nations, see a chance to expand the nuclear sector in Vietnam and in other nations.  Yasuo Hamada, the President of Japan Atomic Power Co., comments that “We pledge to work hard to ensure the nuclear power development of Vietnam.”

In an article written by Chester Dawson and Vu Trong Khanh (Vietnam, Japan Sign Deal for Nuclear-Plant Study) in The Wall Street Journal. They comment that On Thursday, a larger consortium of 13 Japanese companies, including the nine electric utilities, along with Hitachi and Toshiba, plan to sign another memorandum with Vietnam Electricity to start talks on reactor bids. Called the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co., it was set up last year under the trade ministry to promote reactor exports.”

“The Japanese government is expected to foot most of the bill for the plant through development aid and export-promotion programs run by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. The government will cover the entire ¥2 billion ($26 million) cost of the 18-month feasibility study.”

“The planned Japanese reactors will each have a 1,000-megawatt capacity and are slated to begin operation in 2021 and 2022, immediately after two Russian reactors planned for nearby. The sites of the two twin-reactor plants are about 20 kilometers apart along the coast of southern Vietnam, about 400 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.”

Irrespective of the final outcome, the most likely being that it will be favorable towards Japan and the Russian Federation, it is clear that other nations like Turkey are interested in Japanese nuclear technology.  Also, the government of Japan will continue to support the export side of the nuclear industry.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/science/earth/30germany.html?pagewanted=all – NEW YORK TIMES

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204138204576598164235317774.html?mod=googlenews_wsj  -THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/09/27/pro-nuclear-mayor-wins-despite-anti-nuclear-lobby-in-japan/ Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan – MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 

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